Orioles focus shifts to pitching & other notes
The Winter Meetings are set to kick off on Monday, and as the front office starts to take shape and with more personnel announcements expected in the coming weeks, the Orioles’ priority remains upgrading wherever they can, and most importantly, with the pitching staff.
While executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette declined to name any player in the organization as untouchable — the club will at least listen to most trade offers — it’s a safe bet that young players like catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Adam Jones aren’t going anywhere.
“I try to build around the players that we have,” Duquette said in terms of potential trades. “And not offer up our best players.”
With the Orioles expected to be more active in the trade market, as well as internationally, that doesn’t mean they won’t pursue Major League free agents at all. It’s entirely possible they use some of their payroll –with the 2012 budget still being worked out – to make upgrades to their bullpen and starting staff, although landing top-tier starters like C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle isn’t going to happen.
“We need to let the big sharks feed first,” Duquette said of the club’s approach to the free agent pitching market. “We are going to go into all the markets, we will be looking everywhere… At this point we are really trying to upgrade our pitching staff anyway we can. If we can add a good reliever, if we can add a good starter, we’ll do it.”
*Duquette will be doing a GM video from the Winter Meetings and Orioles fans will have a chance to have their questions answered exclusively on Orioles.com by writing in to my inbox (email@example.com). For now, I get the honors of digging through and answering some of your offseason questions, so be sure to check Orioles.com later for the latest installment.
A few things I didn’t answer in the inbox that I’ll address briefly…
*The Orioles are not replacing the direct roles of directer of baseball operations Matt Klentak and director of pro scouting Lee MacPhail. MacPhail was reassigned to a still-undetermined Major League scouting position while Klentak accepted the Angels’ assistant GM job.
Asked if he felt like the club was working short-handed right now, Duquette said: “We’ve got some capable people on board and if you count up the numbers, we’re not really [far behind other clubs]. I’m learing what the people here can do and I’ve also got some people that I’m talking to [to fill the current holes].”
One of those is reportedly Lee Thomas, who was Duquette’s special assistant in Boston and who is on board in Baltimore, several outlets reported Thursday. Duquette has declined comment on the matter and Thomas, when reached for comment, said it’s not official yet. Like Duquette, Thomas has been out of baseball for a few years, and was last with Milwaukee after a scouting job with the Astros fell through.
“We will have appropriate staffing at all levels,” Duquette said. “We will the best people I can get to do the job that they are passionate about in helping the Orioles.”
Look for most of the changes to be announced in the next few weeks, although Duquette cautioned it could take until the end of the calendar year for everything to be sorted out.
*Reliever Tae-Hyon Chong, the agreement that has been pending seemingly forever, remains in limbo. The Baltimore Sun reported a few days ago that Chong is still deciding between Korea and the United States (he would be the first player to make the jump from the KBO right to the Major Leagues) as the source of the holdup, but there’s some rumblings it’s also a medical issue. There remains no new movement on that front as of Friday morning, although I’d expect the Orioles to have that resolved one way or another in the next few days.
*Jeremy Guthrie remains the Orioles most actively shopped player and he’s drawn serious interest from a handful of teams. The Rockies and Angels look to be the best fits on paper, and Baltimore would almost definitely look for pitching in return. Guthrie’s durability is a huge plus for opposing teams; pitchers that post 200-plus innings –as he has in consecutive seasons — are enticing.
*With all the Rangers ties, here’s another name to keep an eye on –and another reason to monitor the Prince Fielder sweepstakes — Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. If the M’s make a play and get Fielder, it’s being reported that Smoak would be shopped and, in that hypothetical case, the Orioles would almost certainly have interest.